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The Return of the World Class Hispano-Suiza

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On: Thu, May 13, 2010 at 4:37PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Return of the World Class Hispano-Suiza

Throughout history, many countries have been known for designing at least one car is so impressive and exotic that it stands far above the rest. Rarely do they produce more than one of these legendary automobiles. Examples are the 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Phantom III from Britain, the supercharged Mercedes-Benz SSKL from Germany, the huge Bugatti Royale from France, and for Spain, that car was the Hipano-Suiza, a pre-World War II  European luxury car that never made it through the Great Depression.

The Suiza originated in Spain in 1901 after a Swiss engineer, Marc Birkigt (most famous for his brilliant engines), built a twin-cylinder while working for the Spanish employer, La Cuadra. Only six cars were constructed before the company started having financial problems. Subsequently a new investor, J. Castro, stepped in to contribute financially to the endeavor and assumed the liabilities and assets of the company (he named the company Castro Cars). Castro cars lasted only until 1904 when labor unrest put the company out of business.

The next rescue of the company resulted in the famous Spanish car company, Fabrica La Hispano-Suiza de Automobiles of Barcelona. The company's new name was literally interpreted as; Spanish-Swiss, paying tribute to its Spanish financing and Swiss engineering. The new investor was a wealthy Spaniard by the name of Damien Mateu, who owned the company until his death in 1929.

The Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII (named after the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, who owned 30 Hispano Suiza models during his reign) was introduced in 1912. Its 3.6 litre, 60-horsepower engine resulted in a fast acceleration rate and a top speed of more than 100 km/h (62 mph).

When World War II began in Europe the French government asked Hispano-Suiza to design a military aircraft engine. Birkigt started using overhead camshafts in his cars, and included them in his aircraft engines as well, which became known as the best military aeronautic engines of the First World War.

Although the war effort improved Hispano's reputation for building first class engines, Hispano-Suiza production ceased in France in 1938, it was a tragedy in the history of the automotive industry; but great car news is on the horizon as one of the worlds’ greatest cars is slotted for a comeback.

The V12 Hispason-Suizas will be redesigned as an Audi V10, which is actually a Lamborghini V10 redesigned with aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber Audi R8 V10 5.2 FSI, with two electric-superchargers plugged into the intake manifold. The resulting power is unbelievable, giving the new Hispano Suiza a whopping 750 horsepower. As you may have figured out, performance is on the cutting edge as well, with 60 mph occurring in just 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 211 miles per hour.

A former Audi designer, Erwin Himmel, will be among the team that is restoring the Hispano Suiza to a 2-seat brilliant sports car based on the Audi R8. The Audi chassis is being utilized but the Hispano Suiza has a more forceful angular look to it, with a shark-like nose and sharp character lines. The lightweight body panels use carbon-fiber, aluminum, and magnesium to reduce weight.

Plans are to launch the all new Hispano Suiza later this year—the price tag, a mere €700,000; that's about $950,000 US. dollars at the current exchange rate. The company plans to produce 20-25 new cars each year.


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